Inspiring speakers, technologies welcome attendees to AFRL Inspire, Tech Expo

DAYTON, Ohio – Seven people from Air Force Research Laboratory technology directorates across the country presented inspiring talks at the fourth AFRL Inspire event held May 16 at the Dayton Convention Center in front of more than 500 attendees.

Sponsored by AFRL’s Learning Office, Inspire showcases the innovative ideas and passionate people AFRL has to offer as they provide entertaining and thought-provoking talks.

This year’s Inspire event, themed, “Breaking the Status Quo,” also highlighted advancements in 16 different research areas as part of AFRL’s Tech Expo.

“AFRL Inspire is an opportunity for the Air Force Research Laboratory to inspire both our current and our future workforce and to inspire our stakeholders who depend on AFRL to deliver technology,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, commander of AFRL.

“The Inspire team has been phenomenal, and we’ve had such high interest in terms of the number of people who wanted to be speakers at Inspire,” said Dr. Teresa Bennett, chief learning officer at AFRL. “The hard part was the down selection process because we’d like to have everyone be able to speak. It’s very inspiring to bring into light what we do and what our workforce is really all about.”

With more than 6,000 people assigned at Wright-Patterson and geographically separated locations across the country, some AFRL personnel may not be aware of what others are doing in support of the mission, which covers a huge array of technology research and development.

“Inspire presents an opportunity to communicate across the laboratory,” said Cooley. “Today, more than technology, it’s really about the people. This is where we get to hear the human side of the story as to where their passion comes from. This is an opportunity to highlight just a few of our workforce who bring incredible passion to AFRL every day.”

At the Tech Expo, J.D. Bales, a mechanical engineer and Christopher Falkowski, a facilities engineer, both assigned to AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, were on hand to discuss their lightweight milk stool, which is designed to save fuel, time and reduce manpower requirements among C-130 units across the Department of Defense.

“The original request came from a C-130 loadmaster from Air Force Special Operations Command, who had spent many years carrying the old milk stool, which is used to prop up the rear bottom ramp door,” Bales said. “He asked us if we could help him out with a lightweight milk stool.

Bales and Falkowski, members of a subset of Junior Force Warfighter Operations in RX, or JFWORX, helped develop the product that had to be light and be able to be manufactured in the backshops of the maintenance squadrons to help keep costs down. The current milk stool weighs 85 pounds and the version they are working on is a little more than 32 pounds.

Lt. Steven McNamara, test lead, base defense systems, high-powered microwave applications, at AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, works on the Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder, or THOR program, which is a system designed for base defense, specifically to address the threat of small unmanned aircraft systems.

“We’ve seen UAS’s used in a number of different ways throughout the world,” McNamara said. “We’re addressing the fact that drone technology is advancing. We need a way to take down drones at a more extended range than small arms can.”

Inspiring ideas about research were shared as the six AFRL Inspire presenters shared a brief portion of their background and what motivated their personal passion for the work they do.

“An idea has the power to change the world, but ideas are transformed to reality through people, and the people who make this happen are thought leaders,” said Dr. Dan Miracle, a senior scientist from AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “Thought leaders harness two compelling forces: ideas and leadership. Thought leaders generate compelling new ideas and they transform them into reality through a vision, conviction, and the ability to inspire others to action.”

Capt. Sarah Woody, deputy course director for the Critical Care Air Transport initial course at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, presented her talk titled, “Thought for Food.”  She spoke about advocating to Air Mobility Command for Enteral feeding pumps to be available to patients during critical care air transport missions.

Amber Anderson, an engineer and program manager for THOR, presented her talk, titled, “The Impact of Child’s Play,” speaking about progress with the THOR system, which is designed to negate swarms of drones using speed of light effects.

“The face of war is changing,” Anderson said after showing a video clip of perhaps a billion dollars’ worth of ammo in the Ukraine being blown up. “What you didn’t see was the $1,000 UAS that any 12-year-old with D-size batteries can operate that can help deliver munitions to negate this armory.” These are no longer toys, they are precision guided munitions, and any Joe-Schmo with an Amazon account and a credit card can get their hands on one so it’s time to adopt some of these farther out technologies and some of these unconventional technologies, link them together and build a system that’s capable to defend.”

2nd Lt. Justin Davis, a program manager, and Peter Mozloom a senior computer scientist, both from AFRL’s Information Directorate at Rome, New York, presented a talk titled, “Managing a Crisis? There’s an App for That,” where they discussed the capabilities of an mobile AFRL application known as the Android Team Awareness Kit, or ATAK, a map-based situational awareness tool they successfully used in 2018 to help in Hurricane Florence recovery efforts. The tool provides end-users, such as security forces, or other first responders, both military and civilian, with a mobile solution that provides enhanced situational awareness and increased productivity.

Dr. Ivett Leyva, program officer for high-speed aerodynamics at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, spoke about hypersonics during her talk, titled, “Speed is Everything.”

“When the distance between you and your target is fixed, the only way to get to your target sooner is by going faster,” Leyva said. “Hypersonic flight is going at least five times the speed of sound. That is Mach 5 or above, which would allow for travel from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. in about 40 minutes.”

1st Lt. Brennan Taylor, a program manager also from AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate where he supports the Aero-Effects and Beam Control Program, wrapped up the Inspire event with his talk, entitled, “Tell Your Story.” Taylor discussed the art of scientists and engineers describing their work in a fashion that is understandable and appropriate for the audience.

The next AFRL event is scheduled for 2020 at Eglin AFB, Florida.

The AFRL 2019 Inspire/Tech Expo event featured seven guest speakers who showcased innovative ideas and the passionate people AFRL has to offer in short, entertaining and thought-provoking talks. Left to right:, CMSgt Kennon Arnold, Inspire speakers Dr. Dan Miracle, 1st Lt. Brennan Taylor, Capt. Sarah Woody, Dr. Ivett Leyva, Peter Mozloom, Amber Anderson, 2nd Lt. Justin Davis and Maj. Gen. William Cooley (U.S. Air Force photo/Keith Lewis)